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11-year-old guilty in Burke County slaying

Thursday, July 26, 2012 10:29 AM
Last updated Friday, July 27, 2012 1:06 AM
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WAYNESBORO, Ga. — As Assistant District Attorney Pittman Morris painted a grisly picture of a 10-year-old who took the time to plan the killing of his father’s girlfriend then fabricate a detailed cover story, the boy started heaving so badly Morris had to stop talking.

Dalton Archer, who turned 11 in June, had to sit down when Morris brought up evidence police found at his home detailing a plan to kill Jennifer Albright.

“This was not the action of an enraged child,” Morris said. “He planned this.”

A trial was scheduled for Thurs­day morning, but it became a sentencing hearing when Archer pleaded guilty to felony murder and possession of a gun during the commission of a crime in the Dec. 30 slaying of 31-year-old Albright at her Midville, Ga., home. Archer received the maximum sentence from Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders of being held in custody until he turns 21. Saunders said he would have the option to appeal for a shorter sentence annually.

Archer is the second person of his age to be charged in connection with a murder in Georgia, according to the Department of Juvenile Justice records. The other is a girl charged in Fulton County, but DJJ declined to release details. According to the agency’s records, they are the youngest inmates to be held in connection with murders.

At the hearing, Morris said Archer had planned to kill Albright before December. He was going to get his 8-year-old cousin to tell Albright the toilet was broken and ask her to look at it. When she was cornered in the bathroom, Archer would grab a gun and shoot her, “five times in the head and eight times in the stomach,” Morris said.

The morning of Dec. 30, Albright was watching Archer, his younger cousin and her 2-year-old daughter.

According to Morris, Archer grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun he received as a Christmas present and shot Albright in the back while she was changing her daughter.

“He said, ‘That’s what you get,’ ” Morris said.

Archer then fled with his younger cousin into the woods. Archer told his cousin they would tell police an intruder shot Albright or they would both be in trouble. The boys went to a fire station and called police.

Burke County investigators and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents soon began to notice inconsistencies in the boys’ stories.

After three hours of questioning, Archer suddenly confessed and began to sob. At first he said it was an accident, but after being read his Miranda rights, he admitted to pointing the gun at Albright and shooting her.

The confession, which defense attorney Pete Theodocion tried to get thrown out, was ruled admissible by Saunders. The judge said the confession was of Archer’s “own free will,” and therefore would be used as evidence.

Theodocion argued the then-10-year-old was too young to understand his rights and was forced into a confession after hours of inquiries by officers.

“Parents better hope their kids don’t commit a crime,” Theodocion said. “The Burke County officers and the GBI will browbeat a confession out of them.”

In light of Saunders’ decision to admit the confession, Theodocion said Archer felt the “overwhelming evidence” against him warranted a guilty plea.

“He feels a lot of sorrow and a lot of guilt,” Theodocion said.

Theodocion said Archer had made threats before the murder, which were ignored by the adults around him.

“Something within him was wrong,” he said. “There were wires crossed.”

Sherri Stoney, Archer’s guardian ad litem, said she thought Archer was in need of anger management therapy and the Division of Family and Children Services should be involved in his next steps.

After the hearing, a teary-eyed Kim McCollum, Archer’s mother, said she felt she had lost her life along with her son.

“I’m sorry for everything everyone is going through,” she said. “But I will stand by my son, no matter what.”

Theodocion said he thought the boy’s circumstances had partially led to the murder.

“Probably the worst thing possible is to take a young man who is showing problem signs and allowing him unsupervised access to guns,” Theodocion said.

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HighSociety 07/26/12 - 10:42 am
This is one of those hard

This is one of those hard ones. I do agree with the punishment, but so many questions in cases like this.

Jake 07/26/12 - 10:52 am

This is indeed sad on many levels. But, really, buying a 10yr old a weapon for Christmas? He should be playing with Legos or model building at that age.

CobaltGeorge 07/26/12 - 11:01 am

There probably are more unknown facts about this case then will ever be discovered or made public.

David Parker
David Parker 07/26/12 - 11:21 am
I figure kids don't

I figure kids don't understand the consequence and gravity of their actions, which is why there is juvenile courts and adult courts.

this case demonstrates that difference in motive.

scoobynews 07/26/12 - 01:20 pm
I feel sorry for the half

I feel sorry for the half sibling who will grow up knowing that his/her brother killed their mom. At 10 you know right from wrong and nothing could be so bad that you have to kill someone.

clumber 07/26/12 - 07:43 pm

I predict he will kill again.

onlysane1left 07/26/12 - 07:54 pm
Lost Children

I believe earlier this week in a story about gangs, people were quick to point out how many children commit crimes without a father in their lives. I think this story busts that theory. Sometimes it is not the fault of the parents, some children become lost with in the midst of everyday life.........

Tots 07/26/12 - 08:29 pm

Well, i also believe that children without fathers in their homes are more likely to comment crimes..I also believe that some kids are just evil ,maybe their born that way are something triggers that emotion to develop...

KSL 07/26/12 - 09:31 pm
I agree with you, Tots. And

I agree with you, Tots. And normal 11 year olds don't plan murders.

rebellious 07/27/12 - 12:43 am
Crazy Days Indeed

What has gone wrong? I suspect a whole lot more than we will ever know was happening to produce this level of anger and hate. Add in video games (which I never let my kids play) where you can blow someone's head off, and these little guys lose grip of reality and fantasy. All of my kids were raised with guns, taught to shoot a target at young ages, hunt, and know where the weapons are stored. I don't believe the first one would ever raise a weapon against a loved one. They are quick to ask what we need to do when an interloper (4 footed or 2 footed) breaches the walls of the compound. in fact the other night, a neighbor called suspecting a burglar. I sent my 19 year old with the rifle from the right while I went in the middle with a handgun. I had not the least hesitation, knowing he knew how to use the weapon and knew when to use the weapon. Plus, he knows right from wrong. Chalk this up to poor parentage, at some time, on some point, on many levels.

realitycheck09 07/27/12 - 01:12 am
I'm all for the 2nd

I'm all for the 2nd Amendment....but maybe don't buy your 10 year old a gun.

fenwaykid1912 07/27/12 - 01:18 am

I was born and raised in the South by a father who was a competitive shooter and law enforcement officer... I had a weapon bought for me when I was young (8 years old if I recall correctly), and it came with stipulations. It was a .22 caliber "Chipmunk", and it was built for a young child. The stipulations were that it was only used at the range under adult supervision, a trigger guard lock was placed on the weapon when it was put in the safe, ammunition cases were never to be opened without an adult present and only when at the range, and no weapons would be put in the safe in a loaded state. It was that simple...

Sure, it was "my gun", but I had no access to it unless my father was present. I am sure this young man's father wishes he had applied a similar set of rules to his son, but it's too late now. I'm sure he regrets the purchase of a youth 12 gauge and ammunition even more.

I'll say this... Something was wrong with that child, gun or no gun involved. Access to a gun should have never been an issue, because it shouldn't have existed for this child. However, the want to kill was in his heart, and any item could have been used. A gun just made it easier for him. Had he not killed this woman, he would have aged and killed another person later. Some people really do have an issue, and gun or not, they'll kill another individual.

GaStang22 07/27/12 - 05:28 am

So there's no charges for parents who leave the gun accessible to a 10 year old?? She tragically paid the ultimate price as the adult in the house at the time, but did dad not have it locked away either?

pwren46 07/27/12 - 08:18 am
Typical defense lawyer

Typical defense lawyer "Parents better hope their kids don’t commit a crime,” Theodocion said. “The Burke County officers and the GBI will browbeat a confession out of them.”
Defense lawyers don't care about justice...they just want to get their client off and get paid. It sounds to me like law enforcement did their job very well...and that job is to catch criminals.

rmwhitley 07/27/12 - 09:07 am

is archer's father?

ron chandonia
ron chandonia 07/29/12 - 10:33 pm
kids need parentS (married ones)

People seem bewildered as to why a kid living with his dad and daddy's shack-up girlfriend would be frustrated and angry enough to kill. Aren't dads the secret to raising boys? Nope. ParentS (mom & dad, married and living together) are the key to successful child-rearing. That's why so-called "traditional" marriage is so important.

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